LaLiga roundup: Barca batter Mallorca, Atleti topple Sociedad and Betis make Europe

LaLiga roundup: Barca batter Mallorca, Atleti topple Sociedad and Betis make Europe
Barcelona were in fine form at Camp Nou
Barcelona were in fine form at Camp Nou
Most eyes were set firmly on LaLiga's intense relegation battle going into the penultimate round of fixtures on Sunday but there were some enticing fixtures to get stuck into elsewhere, too. Barcelona and Atletico both secured wins while Athletic let their European hopes slip with a loss to rock-bottom Elche. Betis' 2-1 win over Girona means they have qualified for the Europa League.

Barcelona 3 Mallorca 0

Barcelona strolled to a comfortable victory against Mallorca, taking the La Liga champions to 88 points with one league game remaining.

Newly-crowned champions Barcelona had suffered back-to-back defeats since winning the title, but Ansu Fati wasted absolutely no time in making sure it wasn’t three losses on the bounce for the first time since April 2016.

Inside the first minute, Gavi picked out the 20-year-old, who tapped into an exposed net - the 15th consecutive occasion in which Mallorca have conceded the match opener in this fixture.

It wasn’t long before things got even worse for Mallorca, with Amath Ndiaye seeing a straight red card in the 16th minute before the hosts doubled their lead. Robert Lewandowski was the man to tee up Fati this time, who kept his composure to pick his spot and bag a first-half brace.

Ansu Fati was the star for Barca in the Spanish sun

The one-way traffic resumed after the break, and Mallorca had Martin Valjent to thank for keeping the deficit to just two when the Slovakia international cleared Ousmane Dembele’s header off the line.

Lewandowski then followed that up with a near-miss of his own, heading narrowly wide as the hosts continued to knock on the Piratas’ door. A third Barca goal appeared inevitable at this stage, and after Lewandowski had struck the woodwork from a free-kick, Gavi fired a bullet beyond Dominik Greif with a two-touch finish.

With the contest wrapped up, the focus switched to Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, who each received standing ovations from the Blaugrana faithful as they tearfully departed the Camp Nou pitch for the last time as Barcelona players. It was a fitting send-off for a pair of Barça icons, as the hosts saw out a comfortable evening’s work to claim another win during a successful domestic campaign.

Mid-table Mallorca were always up against it after the early dismissal, and their search for a first away league victory over Barca since May 2008 (D1, L7) goes on.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Ansu Fati (Barcelona)

See all the match stats here.

Atletico Madrid 2 Real Sociedad 1

Atletico Madrid earned their first LaLiga victory over a fellow top-five club this season, as a goal and assist from Antoine Griezmann was enough to beat his former club Real Sociedad 2-1 at the Civitas Metropolitano.

Defeat mattered not for the visitors, who qualified for next season’s Champions League thanks to Villarreal’s loss at Rayo Vallecano.

Diego Simeone’s men surrendered control of second place after letting a three-goal lead slip against Espanyol last time out, but they looked in no mood to repeat the act as Sociedad were left feeding off scraps in a cagey first half.

There was very little in the way of final-third quality until Griezmann worked his magic with half-time approaching. Cutting in from the right, the Frenchman expertly finished into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Alex Remiro to send the hosts in ahead at the interval.

Griezmann was pulling the strings with the freedom of Madrid to roam, and his mazy dribble along the right byline forced a smart save from Remiro after the restart. The Sociedad stopper was increasingly busy after the break, with the Spaniard forced into action once more to parry away Sergio Reguilon’s powerful strike.

Imanol Alguacil’s side appeared to have ridden the storm and set about plotting a comeback, with substitute Ander Barrenetxea seeing a driven effort beaten away by Atleti stopper Ivo Grbic.

The visitors’ more expansive approach left them open at the back though, and Los Colchoneros capitalised on the break to wrap up the three points. Griezmann’s killer pass gave Nahuel Molina acres of space to run into, and the Argentina international took full advantage to slot into the far corner.

Molina made it 2-0

La Real threatened a late comeback when Alexander Sorloth broke through to reduce the arrears in the 88th minute, but the Norwegian’s strike proved too little, too late for the visitors.

Atletico head into the final day a point behind arch-rivals Real Madrid, although their top-four slot has long since been secured. The same can be said for Sociedad now, as a first defeat in eight matches proved inconsequential to their prospects as they gear up for a return to Europe’s top table next term.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) 

See all the match stats here.

Girona 1 Betis 2

Real Betis claimed their place in next season's Europa League as they came from behind to win 2-1 against Girona.

Girona’s return to LaLiga has gone unexpectedly well, and they headed into the last two games of the campaign still in with a chance of claiming a place in next season’s Europa Conference League, finding themselves in a five-way battle for seventh place.

However, the hosts started poorly as they nearly gifted Betis an opener after 21 minutes. A wayward pass played Ayoze Perez through on goal, but the Spaniard was denied by a fantastic reflex save from Paulo Gazzaniga.

Girona were resilient as they withstood waves of pressure from the visitors early in the first half, and they were rewarded in the 36th minute when they took the lead against the run of play. The goal was scored by left-back Miguel Gutierrez, who finished off a swift move after being played through by Reinier.

Trailing at the break, Betis had a proverbial mountain to climb after the interval having won only one of their last seven away games (D2, L4) prior to kick-off.

But Manuel Pellegrini's men burst out of the blocks at the start of the second period and equalised within two minutes. Top scorer Borja Iglesias was the hero, netting his 14th goal of the season from Sergio Canales' assist.

Betis were too good for Girona on Sunday

Iglesias scored two in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, and very nearly completed another brace around the hour mark, striking the crossbar with a powerful header.

Betis continued their relentless attacks and took the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining as Iglesias finally grabbed his second of the afternoon, converting Juan Miranda’s low cross at the front post.

The Seville-based outfit subsequently secured the three points with relative ease and can now celebrate European qualification once more, while Girona's quest for continental football will go down to the final matchday.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Borja Iglesias (Real Betis)

See all the match stats here.

Full LaLiga standings after the round of fixtures

Athletic Bilbao 0 Elche 1

With closest rivals Osasuna and Girona dropping points, Athletic Bilbao missed the chance to reclaim seventh spot and edge closer to European qualification after Lucas Boye swept home an injury-time winner for an already relegated Elche.  

Six teams are still in with a chance of seventh place and Europa Conference League qualification, but last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Osasuna saw Athletic Bilbao’s fate taken out of their own hands by virtue of the head-to-head records. With a final-day rendezvous with Real Madrid on the cards, the Lions could ill afford to slip up against La Liga’s bottom side.

Inaki Williams should have put his side in front as the Basque side controlled the early fractions. After controlling a cross from the left well, his well-struck effort had the beating of goalkeeper Edgar Badia in no man's land, but remarkably his defensive counterpart Carlos Clerc blocked with his head on the goalline.

Player ratings

Elche have managed to find their feet of late with only one defeat in five and grew into the game as Unai Simón was forced into a classy low save down to his left following a Pedro Bigas header to keep the scores level at half-time.

The patience from the home crowd was beginning to wear thin, with their side seemingly toothless in front of goal contributing to seven home defeats this season. For all their efforts, half chances were all their team could muster as Aitor Paredes headed wide from a corner before Álex Berenguer almost caught out Badia with a cross-cum-shot that needed tipping over.

Badia was looking to change the fact he hadn’t kept a clean sheet in three attempts against Athletic and was in inspired form with three saves in a matter of seconds from point-blank range as it was destined to be one of those days.

That sentiment was compounded moments from time when Boye fired home a winner on the counter to worsen the home fans' misery.

Athletic must now better Osasuna’s result on the final day of the season against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu to end the season on a high.

Flashscore Player of the Match: Edgar Badia (Elche)

See all the match stats here.

Rayo Vallecano 2 Villarreal 1

Rayo Vallecano kept alive their bid for a first top-half LaLiga finish in a decade with a convincing 2-1 victory over Villarreal at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas in Madrid.

Now resigned to a mid-table finish after a dismal run of three wins in 16 matches, Rayo Vallecano were simply playing to finish as high as possible as they signed off their LaLiga home campaign. Villarreal found themselves in a much similar position of having little to play for, and that lack of urgency to secure a result told in the opening stages, as neither side made an effort to seize the early initiative.

This game certainly had the feel of an end-of-season contest with half-time arriving with neither side as much as threatening to break the deadlock. Whatever the two managers said at the break clearly did the trick, as both sides attempted to build a head of steam after the interval.

Villarreal’s Ramon Terrats sparked the game into life when his stinging drive was tipped over by Stole Dimitrievski before Vallecano threatened themselves just moments later when Raul de Tomas forced Pepe Reina into a smart stop at his near post.

The Vallecano marksman didn’t have to wait long to get his third goal in as many LaLiga games though, as he ghosted into the area to head home Pep Chavarria’s wicked delivery.

A goal to the good, Vallecano were in no mood to take their foot off the gas, and after some impressive footwork on the byline from Santi Comesana opened up an opportunity for Isi Palazon, Rayo’s top-scorer duly fired home to double their advantage.

Vallecano’s lead could certainly have looked even more handsome had they taken their chances to kill the game off, but Unai Lopez’s curling effort that drifted well wide was somewhat symptomatic of their wastefulness at times.

Their wastefulness opened the door for Villarreal to set up a grandstand finish when Giovani Lo Celso halved the arrears with a little under ten minutes remaining.

That proved immaterial though as Rayo held on to secure a victory that ensures they will go into the final day of the season in the top half, though a tricky away game against rivals Mallorca next weekend means their work is far from done.

As for Villarreal, today’s result ensured they will finish the season in fifth and get another tilt at the Europa League next season.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Santi Comesana (Rayo Vallecano)

See all the match stats here.

Full round of results in LaLiga


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